ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Do Women Make Less? The History Behind the Pay Gap

Updated on April 15, 2020
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Women under 35 without children are now earning as much as male counterparts with equal education level in several of the largest cities in the United States. Why, then, do women make less on average? And what is the history of the pay gap?

Reasons for the Historical Gender Pay Gap

1. Men tend to go into higher paying professions or those with greater pay potential, such as high volume sales and programming. This is partially due to the greater aggressiveness of men and partially due to individual preferences.

2. Men are more likely to work in low skill but high risk occupations that pay a lot, from construction to mining. Their low skill female counterparts are working in safer and thus lower paid positions like childcare, health services, customer service and food service. Men are paid a premium for getting dirty, risking injury and doing hard, physical labor.

3. Women are more likely to work part time, especially those with children. This reduces their annual wages. Women have also been more likely to take off summers with their children. If a husband and wife were teachers, he could work another job over the summer while his wife stayed home with the children.

4. Career entries and exits hurt earnings. This happens whether a man is unemployed for two to three years or a woman leaves for a few years to be a stay at home parent. Upon re-entry to the workforce, the worker generally receives less than they did before or their same pay grade. But the salary that they receive upon returning to the workforce is rarely higher, since they lack multiple years of raises from increasing experience or seniority.

5. Part of the historical pay gap was due to lower educational attainment of women. Women who would in previous generations have been nurses are now doctors – and make as much as the male doctors, as long as they do not cut back their hours or step off the career track as parents. With women now earning 55-60% of the bachelor’s degrees, the pay gap due to educational levels is now reversing.

6. Women often made less on average simply because they were stay at home mothers. If she did earn money, it was through work at home jobs such as handicrafts, care of another child, baking, sewing, ironing or other low skill tasks. They counted as part of the work force due to the low income, but this was primarily due to the choice to arrange a lifestyle to be the primary caregiver of their own child.

The gender wage gap uses bogus statistics | FACTUAL FEMINIST

7. Jobs with a high percentage of travel tend to pay well. Mothers with children generally cannot take these positions. After all, even with the rise of daycare, there are few overnight care positions available if there is no father in the home or the father already travels.

8. Jobs demanding 60-80 hours a week, something called "overwork", tend to pay more. Unfortunately, being a parent adds 20-40 hours a week to one's schedule. Women with children can rarely work the hours of these higher paying positions and be parents. More women opt for part time pay, and this slows their earnings growth even if they return to full time work. Women are both less likely to take jobs that require overwork, and if they take those positions, they are more likely than men to quit those positions.

9. Older women see their earnings eroded by the care-giving gap. An aging parent is more likely to receive care from a daughter than a son. Even those who move in with a son receive care from daughters in law or hired (mostly female) help. Because women outlive men, they often end up dropping out of the workforce to care for deteriorating spouses.

10. Recent studies have found that women tend to make less than men in comparable jobs because they are less likely to negotiate a salary or pay raise. They don't want to seem confrontational or demanding, so they get less. Even if they start with comparable pay, their pay raises may not be as great as their male counterparts because they do not stand up and demand them.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)